A Memoir
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 In a poetic and emotionally charged account of a journey back to her native Japan, Mori creates beautiful scenes even as she uncovers painful truths about her family and her past. Not knowing what else to do for a sabbatical, novelist Mori (Creative Writing/St. Norbert's College; Shizuko's Daughter, 1993) applied for a grant to travel to Japan, which she had left 13 years earlier, when she was a junior in college. This chronicle covers her departure from her adopted America; her rediscovery of her hometown of Kobe; her reacquaintance with the land and people she had so eagerly fled; and her remembrances of a childhood that included her mother's suicide when Mori was 12 and her father's subsequent beatings and cruelties (he forbade Mori to see her mother's relatives and, whenever his new wife threatened to leave because of Mori, would menace his daughter with a meat knife). Her book, which begins like entries in a conscientious traveler's journal, soon becomes a memoir wrought with suspense and wisdom. Will she contact her father? Will she understand her parents' early love for each other and their subsequent loss? In her initial encounters, Mori has difficulty communicating: Not only is her Japanese rusty, but she also respects the customs of Japanese restraint. So she says little and later dwells on what she should have said. But after visiting her mother's grave and relatives, she arrives at an emotional watershed. The book becomes richly rewarding as Mori opts for the most complicated, interesting, and difficult answers. She has an acute eye for metaphors. Some are delicate--like a stone slab at the bottom of a temple gate over which people step because it is a bad omen to touch it. Others, like the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (whose victims include her relatives), are explosive. This beautifully written voyage through a ``legacy of loss'' is a trip well worth taking.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-3260-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994


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